Archive for D300s

The infamous Parts List

Posted in DSLR Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2010 by evanbutson

After a lot of emails I have finally relented and got off my butt and put together a detailed list of the components that make up my rails rig.

PROAIM FOLLOW FOCUS, RAILS, MATTE BOX KIT: Available from a variety of places, I got mine off eBay, just google it and you should find a few sources. I used this as the basis for my kit, figuring I could upgrade bits as I went along, which I did. And continue to do. I have written a more detailed post on the bits here, so wont re-invent the wheel.

microShoulderMount for 35mm Adapters Bundle (Patent Pending): Redrock gear is nice, very nice, the shoulder mount stuff is the best I have seen and not too expensive. Using this bundle with the ProAim kit means you get the best bits of RedRock with the cheaper ProAim rails and camera mount.

microMount 3 pack : These little microMounts are great, you can pop them anywhere on the Rails or the handle bar and mount lights, LCD monitors, audio recorders etc. They have a little spigot that drops in, so if you need to take something off the rails quickly you don’t need to remove the whole microMount.

Cinevate Universal Rails Block for 15mm Rods: I bought a couple of these, mainly to use to mount the DVtec springed Pole but also as another way of mounting things on the rig. Cinevate gear is pricey but awesome quality. I also use their Nikon to Canon lens adaptors, and after a friend got one from another company literally stuck on his lens, he borrowed my Cinevate one and now only uses them.

MicroLink 4 Riser & 4″ Carbon Fibre Rails: After mounting my camera and the viewfinder I discovered that for it to be completely comfortable I needed to offset the shoulderpad, I ordered two of these Risers and the carbon fibre rails thinking I would need the two rails to handle the weight of the rig, however as this was my first experience with carbon fibre rails I had no idea how strong and flex resistant they are, so I only needed one. Sometime in the future I hope to order a couple of longer carbon fibre rods to replace my metal ones, purely to save on weight.

LCDVF from Jag35: After buying the Hoodman Loupe which is not to fine a point on it, a total piece of crap. I decided to take a punt on the LCDVF for two reasons, one it was noticeably cheaper than the Zacuto ZFinder and it was a lot longer which matches the ergonomics of my rig more. I am happy to report that this unit is everything I could have hoped for, focusing is a breeze and it is supremely comfortable.

Springed Shock Absorbing Pole: DVtec actually sell whole support rigs and one of the camera ops I work with has one, however, as I had the vast majority of the gear already in terms of the camera mount I didn’t want the whole DVtec solution, so I just ordered the support pole from them. This inserts into the spring mounted on the Cinevate block, the other end goes into a small holder that I wear on an off the shelf Weightlifter belt. This not only supports almost all of the weight of the rig without the need for counterbalance, but it also absorbs a lot of the slight movement when walking etc. And finally means I can hold the camera with one hand and us the other to operate follow focus, adjust camera settings etc. Something I can’t do if I use the counter balance approach.

And that’s it. I am looking at probably replacing the follow focus soon, probably with the RedRock unit, the ProAim unit still works fine but I have a few big time gigs coming up and I would feel a fair bit safer with the RedRock unit and the ProAim as a backup in case I have problems. That and eventually replacing the rails with carbon fiber to save on weight and I am pretty much done. I am still on the lookout for a good handle system to add, there are a few different types available but so far none that I am 100% happy with.

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DIY MicroTrack Results

Posted in DSLR Video with tags , , , , on February 20, 2010 by evanbutson

OK, so after a bit more tinkering and adding a few little bits to the MicroTrack, namely a nice thick plate for the tripod head to mount on to stop flexing, and a few little rubber screws to help keep the guide rollers straight, I was ready to shoot a few tests. Unfortunately REAL work got in the way (as a totally random aside, I had NO idea how few working 1 inch VTR’s are left in existence, not long ago they were THE format for broadcast, an now, there are only a handful of companies in all of Australia that can handle the format, got me thinking, with all these new CODECS and disc and tapeless formats tat keep coming out, how are we going to be in another 20 years when we try and play this stuff, I can see me trying to boot up my antiquated Windows 7 machine whilst my virtual crystal based Apple iBrain floats nearby looking on in amazement) and so I haven’t had a chance to pop anything up to Vimeo. Anyway, here we go. Once again, the Pug who once he gets what he wants, in this case an open door, will sit for hours (thanks God). This shots are pretty rough as I was trying to find the limits of the system, and so didn’t really take into account exposure or framing too much either (hence why the exposure is all over the place). One thing I have learnt is, its amazing how even the steadiest hand has a lot of little micro-tremors. I will definitely be installing some kind of belt drive onto this system, as when I tried to do ultra slow moves on a very tight subject, you can really see the slight variations in speed as I move the carriage with my hand. When I get a chance I am going to shoot some 720/50p material on this system with the 7D and see how much the slow mo smooths over the little hand tremors. In the meantime though, I have to say I am pretty happy, and now just cant wait to do a job that needs it
Vodpod videos no longer available.

Update: It seems the Vimeo playback is stuttering a bit for some people. This is not the track, it is a playback problem, I am looking into it.

Micro Dolly – IndiSlider Mini

Posted in DSLR Video with tags , , , , , , on January 17, 2010 by evanbutson

So got a nice little surprise the other day. Just before Xmas on a whim after reading about it on dvxuser.com I decided to order a IndiSlider Mini from IndiSYSTEM’s.  To be honest I didn’t specifically have a job in mind for this, and really just bought it because of the old argument ‘it’s too cheap NOT to buy it’. For $99 US I figured worst case scenario I figured it would be useful to position the camera on a tripod head quickly, even if I didn’t use it for actual tracking shots.

I had seen the Phillip Bloom was using the competing product from Glidetrack, it is significantly more expensive and to my eyes, seems to be overly complex for what it has to do.

There are two options with the IndiSlider, the basic package which is just the track and sliding attachment or the Pro kit that adds two feet so you can table mount the track if you dont want to mount it on a tripod  as well as a ball tripod head. strangely enough I had just picked up a lightweight tripod with the exact same head, and so went for the base unit, figuring I could make my own legs for table top use.

And that was it, I ordered it and promptly forgot about it, until Mr FedEx man arrived at my door with a box containing the IndiSlider.

Off to the local hardware store for some aluminium tubing and a few rubber feet and with a few rounds on the hacksaw and drill press I had put together two feet that would attach to the mounting screws already tapped for the feet that you get with the Pro Kit.

I also picked up a small tube of graphite powder as I figured even the the action seemed pretty smooth, a small dusting of graphite powder couldnt hurt, and might just make it even smoother.

So what to shoot, well I figured that my cat has a habit of sleeping on our dining table for days at a time, so I set the track up on the table and left it there, figuring he would eventually take up his position right in front of the camera and I’d be good. However, what was that thing about not working with children or animals, it was like the cat had an agent and didnt want any shots leaking to the press, he found each and every corner of the table that wasnt in frame to sleep.

I was eventually able to convince him to sit still long enough for one shot, which he preceded to walk out of half way through. So I eventually gave up, shot some tracks of a vase (they don’t move nearly as much, nor do they have that ‘why do you continue to try my patience’ look that cats have). I then decided to annoy the only other living things in the house, namely my wife and our dog. She’s an author and is well known for her writing style which consists of our Pug ‘Tubs’ sleeping underneath her as she taps away. Luckily, whilst she also has the ‘why do you continue to try my patience’ look, she is less inclined to move. And so I was able to get a few tracking shots, and a few track and pan shots at the same time.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

So the verdict, its about an 8 out of 10. I was able to get some very smooth shots, although occasionally it would stick a little in the middle. That being said, back and forth a few times and your bound to get a usable take. I probably will get a Glidetrack at some stage, if only to satisfy my curiosity as to how much better it is at 4 times the price give or take. In the meantime, this will definitely become part of my kit.

Native Editing of Nikon D300s files on a Mac

Posted in DSLR Video with tags , , , , on December 11, 2009 by evanbutson

This link was kindly provided by Alex. Havnt had a chance to give it a go yet, but looks like it will trick a Mac into playing the D300s AVI files on a Mac in Premiere for editing.

http://www.alexbeckett.co.uk/blog/2009/07/02/techie-importing-d90-d300s-d3s-dmovie-video-into-premiere-pro/

Adobe Connect Session – Encoding to multiple formats

Posted in Connect Recordings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2009 by evanbutson

Here’s the link to my latest Connect Session – Using CS4 to encode to multiple formats such as H.264, FLASH and BluRay
http://pacific.adobe.acrobat.com/p61913948/
Cheers

The D300s Support Rig is finished, finally

Posted in DSLR Video with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2009 by evanbutson

So after many online orders, a few mistakes and one fraudulent use of my credit card by a ner-do-well later my support rig for my Nikon D300s is finished.

I’ve put together a short video running through the new gear and how it is configured. It is rendering as we speak (couldn’t help putting some Magic Bullet on it) I will add it here as soon as it is done but in the meantime.

PAS_3179

And now for the detailed breakdown, some of this will be a slight re-hash of earlier posts but with my perspective on some of the parts I have had for a while now.

The Base: ProAim RAILS system

So I took a punt on these, they were cheap, and by cheap I mean the entire bundle of Rails, quick release plate, Matte Box and Follow Focus, costs a little less than just a single Follow Focus from Redrock or a Matte Box set from Arri etc.

railsBut I have to say I am very happy with them, the rails work a treat, the mount is very stable, and comes with all the extra bits that sometimes you have to order separately, for example, after I got the Hoodman and the Shoulder Mount riser, I discovered that I really wanted to raise my camera a bit from the rails, luckily the ProAim kit comes with a set of shims, and it was a simple matter of undoing a couple of hex screws with the supplied allen keys and adding the desired amount of shims to raise the camera to exactly where I wanted it. The Mate box is pretty good, I’m not in love with the filter holders and will probably at some stage replace it with a Red Rock Mattebox that swings out (making lens changes MUCH easier. But they work and do the trick.

s-mat-13

The follow focus is pretty good, it is by no means perfect, there is no way of adjusting tension as you can with the better ones, although I did find that I could sort of fake tension adjustment by adjusting how tight the gears were mounted to the ring on the lens.

PAS_3185

Interestingly I think the main takeaway here is that normal still camera lenses are just not designed for smooth moving focus changes like film lenses, so no matter how great the follow focus unit you are still hampered by the still camera lenses. The quick release plate that comes with the kit is the same form factor as the Manfrotto 501 plate, of which I have several, so I can take the camera off the rails kit and move it to another tripod without having to change baseplates. All in all I am very happy with the kit, and the best part is as time goes by I can upgrade individual pieces as I desire.

Shoulder Mount:

I knew that this is where I was going to have to spend money, experience has taught me that where the camera meets the body you do not want to scrimp. As such I ordered the Redrock Micro  – Micro Shoulder Mount 35mm upgrade kit which consists of the shoulder piece, the front handle bar with a long and a short bar and two handles.

microSM_v2_35mm_bundle_lg

To that I also added a Micromount which allows you to mount things like an LCD or a small light such as a lightpanel by way of a standard spigot.

microMountAnd finally I ordered a Hoodman Loupe kit for video DSLR’s. I looked long and hard at the Zacuto, but honestly my credit card was starting to fall apart from overuse and at the time they were back-ordered. So I figured I would give the Hoodman a go and then maybe in the future upgrade to the Zacuto. So how is the Hoodman? Well it is a BIG step up from having no eyepiece, it definitely makes focusing easier. The mount system they have come up with, which is effectively two large rubber bands is a bit laughable, I am in the process of hand making a hard mount system that will allow me to slide the Hoodman on and off the camera easily but not move when it is attached, once again Redrock make a after market mount, but honestly $55 for a small piece of pressed aluminum, I think I can handle that myself 🙂

PAS_3182

It was at this stage that I realized a flaw in my plan, the Hoodman attached and the shoulder mount attached to the rails, I realized that funnily enough mu shoulder is not exactly in line with my eye and so I could either have a really comfortable should mount and have the Hoodman not near my eye, or I could pop my eye on the Hoodman and the should rig was no longer where it needed to be. So out came the scarred and frying credit card again and after a lot of staring at the rig I decided that to offset the shoulder mount I would need two microLink 4 risers with two 4 inch rails. I figured I would need two of these and I though that with effectively the entire weight of the whole rig on one riser, it would end up twisting. I ended up getting two 4 inch graphite rods from Redrock as the price difference with aluminum was marginal. When the parts came however, I first put the system together with both risers but the carbon fiber rods were so stiff I figured I would take a punt and see if a single riser would work. The takeaway story here is, you now where you here people say carbon fiber is REALLY strong, REALLY lightweight and REALLY stiff? They’re not kidding. With the entire rigs weight effectively resting on these two small rods, there is ZERO flexing or movement. I love these carbon fiber rods so much, as soon as I can I will probably upgrade the rails on my system to all carbon fiber, as I now feel VERY confident that they will work perfectly and save a bit of weight as well.

PAS_3190

So basically I now had a rig that I could rest comfortably on my shoulder, focus easily and see what I am shooting even in bright sunlight. The only problem is it was not the lightest kit in the world, and a month of shooting the Olympics with the Panasonic HVX 202 definitely showed me that even what you think is a light camera gets VERY heaving day after day. About the same time a friend who actually owns a 202 had popped in to work with his kit, a while back he had ordered a support kit for his camera from a company in Israel called DV Tec. Basically it is a spring mounted rod and shoulder mount system.

dvrigpro5100k

After playing with it for a while I decided that the whole rig was kind of pointless for me, seeing as the rails and the shoulder mount kit would be duplicated a fair amount. But the spring loaded pole would be a perfect addition, so I ordered just the pole and with the addition of a support belt (which as an added bonus helps when throwing all the Pelican cases around on shoots) and I have a nice little support system that takes the majority of the weight of the camera but doesn’t cut down any of the flexibility. All I had to do to add the pole into the system was I had a small rail mounting block I had ordered from Cinevate, I just mounted a small spring the same size as on my friends rig into the centre hole. this is then mounted on the rails after the Matte Box, the pole then slots into this, providing easier movement as well as being very quick to attach and de-attach if you suddenly don’t want the rig on.

PAS_3200

And that’s about it. My next plan is to mount a battery on a plate from the shoulder mount. This will not only power a small LCD that I have to mount on the microLink, but it will also add a counterbalance to the front heavy nature of the rig and also give me a place to mount a radio mic. That being said, there is always something to alter change or upgrade. But for the meantime I am happy, now for the track dolly I have been meaning to build……….

How to edit Nikon D300s Videos in Realtime in Premiere Pro CS4

Posted in DSLR Video, Misc, Technology with tags , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2009 by evanbutson

OK, so I have had a few questions from people about how I was able to edit the files straight out of a Nikon D300s in realtime without any conversion. When I first got the D300s I just tried popping the files into my Premiere Pro 4.1 timeline to see what would happen, and lo and behold it worked. As it turns out the story is not that simple, after a bit more testing it seems that a stock install of Premiere Pro 4.1 on Mac or PC wont play the files natively. If however you have a BlackMagic product such as an Intensity or in my case a MultiBridge Pro however, the situation changes.

intensitypro-ban

You see one of the features of the BlackMagic line is you can capture and edit SD and HD video using the MJPEG CODEC, which it appears is quite capable of reading the MJPEG files from the Nikon D300s. This also means you get realtime monitoring of your lovely 720p 24 fps footage out through HDMI or Component to a LCD or Plasma. But what if you don’t have a MultiBridge or Intensity? Well you could go out and buy one, and to be honest considering the cost of an Intensity Pro why wouldn’t you. But, if you spent all your money on Redrock attachments like me there is a solution.

Simply go to the Blackmagic Website and download the drivers for one of their products, I would suggest the MultiBridge drivers (simply because they were the ones I tried first for this little test). And run the installer, answer yes to everything and reboot. Now you don’t have the hardware so you wont get any of the RT or monitoring but what you will get on the PC is a new series of presets (we will get to the Mac situation in a moment) under the BlackMagic Design Folder, choose HD 720, VariCam Motion JPEG, 24p. This will give you a sequence that is at the right frame rate and frame size and smooth playback and rendering of your Nikon footage.

Windows

Now under the Mac the situation is a little different, as there are still no CS4 drivers for the Decklink range of products, this wont work. However, if you wait just a little longer, there is the possibility that maybe, just maybe, some goodness might come your way 😉